Sen. Hatch Increases Penalties for Pot Farmers

Published on May 21, 2013 at 11:32AM

The Senate’s immigration bill now includes tougher criminal penalties for growing marijuana on public lands after the Judiciary Committee unanimously accepted an amendment offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch Monday. The new criminal penalties largely target Mexican cartels that for years have set up one-season marijuana farms on Forest Service and BLM land throughout the western United States, including throughout southern Utah. Hatch’s plan, drafted with assistance from Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Utah, would create a new aggravated penalty for growing marijuana on federal lands and impose a sentence that must be served after the criminal served time for an underlying charge for manufacturing or distributing the drug. It also would create new penalties if people were caught diverting water, using certain fertilizers, or using weapons to protect the marijuana plants.